A Pike County grand jury has indicted Sheriff Charles Reader on 16 charges, Ohio Auditor Keith Faber announced on Friday.
Reader faces seven charges of conflict of interest, four charges of theft in office, two charges of theft, and one charge each of tampering with evidence, tampering with records, and securing writings by deception.
“This has been a long and intensive investigation with unfortunate and very serious results," Faber wrote in a press release. "It is our job to hold public officials accountable and root out fraud, waste, and abuse in our communities. We do not take these charges lightly and recognize that no one is above the law."
The indictment says Reader took advantage of an impounded Nissan Versa and Chevy Silverado. He also took out loans from his employees and a local vendor doing business with the Sheriff’s office. The most severe charges are two third degree felonies for tampering with evidence and records—both carry jail sentences up to three years.
According to Faber, the Auditor's Office investigation began more than a year ago.
In December, the Auditor announced it received an anonymous complaint accusing Reader of taking money seized during a drug investigation and using it to fuel a gambling addiction.
"Reader keeps the cash confiscated on drug cases in a small safe in his office that only he has access to," the complaint reads.
Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk had requested a judge appoint a member of the Auditor's legal team to look into the claims.
"While this is a major step toward seeking justice, our team is fully prepared to present these findings to a jury as this matter moves forward," Faber said Friday. "I’d like to commend everyone who worked on this case for the immense amount of effort and detail that has been dedicated to the investigation.”
Reader made worldwide headlines as he helped state investigators lead the investigation into the murders of eight members of the Rhoden family in 2016. A grand jury recently indicted four members of the Wagner family on aggravated murder charges.
Attorney General Dave Yost insisted the Reader’s case won’t hamper the murder trial.
“This will have no impact on the Wagner capital murder cases, as Sheriff Reader was not the primary witness for any issue of fact or law,” Yost said. “Ohio sheriffs act with integrity and honor, and this rare occurrence does not reflect the excellent work they do daily throughout their counties.”
In total, Reader faces eight felonies and eight misdemeanors.